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'I can never forget the day' (Dec 13 is the 11th anniversary of the parliament attack)

Posted on Dec 12, 09:30PM | IANS

For Radha Chauhan, 37, nightmarish images are still fresh in her mind of splattered blood and people screaming in pain in the Dec 13 attack 11 years ago when five Pakistani terrorists entered the parliament complex and opened fire at security officials. The terror attack, which claimed nine lives, shook the nation and took India-Pakistan ties to the brink of war.

"I can never forget the day. It is still fresh in my mind. Whenever I think about the day, I start shaking," Chauhan, who was one of the women security personnel at the parliament complex, told IANS.

Recalling the day, she said: "I was posted at gate No. 5 and on hearing gun shots I ran towards gate No. 12 where there was absolute mayhem."

Chauhan was shocked to see five men, later identified as Pakistani terrorists, firing at security personnel. She was fired at when she tried to help constable Kamlesh Yadav, who later succumbed to bullet wounds.

Chauhan, who worked as a home guard at that time and now works as a sweeper with the Delhi government, received two bullet wounds. Chauhan claimed as she was working on a three-year contract which had expired.

She was among the 18 people who were injured in the parliament attack of Dec 13, 2001, when at around 11.45 a.m. a white Ambassador bearing a home ministry sticker entered the parliament complex. The car carrying the five terrorists banged into a stationary car of then vice president Krishna Kant.

When security personnel questioned them, the five men started running and opened indiscriminate fire, killing nine security personnel, including five Delhi Police personnel. The gunbattle - whose loud rattle could be heard for miles around in the centre of the capital - continued for half an hour.

According to a senior police officer investigating the case, the Lok Sabha had been adjourned for 40 minutes and the parliamentarians were still inside the building when the shootout occurred. The terrorists were shot dead before they could enter the main parliament building where the two houses were in session with all top leaders present.

To the credit of Delhi Police, they cracked the case in three days and revealed it to be the handiwork of Pakistani terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed.

Police arrested four people: Afzal Guru, S.A.R. Geelani, a Delhi University professor, Navjot, also known as Afsan, and her husband, Shaukat Hussain Guru. Geelani and Afsan were let off for lack of evidence. Shaukat Hussain Guru's death sentence was reduced to 10 years' imprisonment and he is now out of jail.

Afzal Guru was sentenced to death on Dec 18, 2002, by a trial court, which was upheld by the Delhi High Court on Oct 29, 2003. His appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court on Aug 4, 2005. His mercy plea is pending and Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde has said he will study the file after parliament's winter session ends Dec 22.

"On the basis of mobiles phones and other articles of the five terrorists, we began the investigation," Ashok Chand, the then deputy commissioner of police who probed the sensational case, told IANS.

Senior officers said several teams were involved in cracking the case that grabbed the attention of the world. Although it has been 11 years, for the families of the victims it has been a painful journey after losing their dear ones.

And they have only one demand: hang Afzal Guru.

After the hanging of Ajmal Kasab - the lone surviving Pakistani terrorist among the 10 who stormed Mumbai in the Nov 26-29, 2008, attack, killing 166 people - the chorus for Afzal Guru's execution has grown.

"Till the time Afzal Guru is hanged, there will be no honour for the martyrs in the parliament attack. Why has he not been hanged?" asked 24-year-old Bipin Adana, the son of Delhi Police head constable Vijendra Singh, who was killed in the attack.

"For all the families who lost their dear ones, the main issue is Afzal Guru," said Adana, who runs a petrol pump allotted to him by the government as compensation.

But rights activists say that Afzal Guru should not be hanged, arguing that, unlike Kasab, he was not present at the scene of the crime and evidence against him was circumstantial.

"He (Afzal Guru) has suffered for many years, the state can show him mercy and commute his sentence from death to life," aid Supreme Court Lawyer Rebecca John.

But M.S. Bitta, who survived an assassination bid in the mid-1990s and now heads the All India Anti-Terrorist Front, hopes the government will soon execute Afzal Guru.

"After Kasab, we are hopeful the next will be Afzal Guru."

Bitta said the families of all the victims have received compensation, except for the wife of injured cameraman Vikram Bisht, who died later.

"We are hopeful that Sunita Devi (Bisht's wife) will soon get a job. We are pitching with the government on this," Bitta told IANS.

Timeline of Dec 13 parliament attack

* Dec 13, 2001: Five terrorists enter the parliament complex and open indiscriminate fire, killing nine people and injuring over 15.

* Dec 15, 2001: Delhi Police pick up Afzal Guru, a member of terrorist outfit Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), from Jammu and Kashmir. S.A.R. Geelani of Delhi University's Zakir Hussain College picked up for questioning and later arrested. Two others - Afsan Guru and her husband Shaukat Hussain Guru - were picked up later.

* Dec 20, 2001: The IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal A.Y. Tipnis, asks station commanders in the country's western sector to maintain "operational preparedness keeping in view the present security environment" while the army gears itself for scheduled training exercises in the first half of January in Rajasthan and Punjab.

* Dec 21, 2001: India recalls its high commissioner for Pakistan following Islamabad's refusal to initiate action against terrorist groups - Lashkar-e-Tayiba and Jaish-e-Muhammed - whom the government blamed for the attack.

* Dec 23, 2001: Three Indian soldiers killed in an ambush by Pakistan Rangers in the Samba sector (in the Jammu region). This sparks off heavy exchange of fire across the International Border in Jammu region.

* Dec 24, 2001: Indian troops destroy nearly 21 Pakistani bunkers along the Line of Control while Pakistan cancels leave for troops and recalls all its military personnel on leave.

* Dec 25, 2001: Under immense international pressure, the Pakistan government arrests JeM chief Maulana Masood Azhar.

* Dec 29, 2001: Afzal Guru sent to 10 days' police remand.

* June 4, 2002: Charges are framed against four people - Afzal Guru, Geelani, Shaukat Hussain Guru, Afsan Guru and Geelani.

* Dec 18, 2002: Death sentence awarded to S.A.R. Geelani, Shaukat Hussain Guru and Afzal Guru, while Afsan Guru is let off.

*Aug 30, 2003: Jaish-e-Muhammad leader Ghazi Baba, prime accused in the attack, is killed in an encounter with the Border Security Force (BSF) in Srinagar. Three more militants along with him are also killed in the 10-hour encounter.

* Oct 29, 2003: Geelani acquitted in the case.

* Aug 4, 2005: The Supreme Court, while confirming the death sentence of Afzal Guru, commutes Shaukat Hussain Guru's death sentence to 10 years' rigourous imprisonment.

* Sep 26, 2006: Delhi court orders Afzal to be hanged.

* Oct 3, 2006: Afzal Guru's wife Tabasum Guru files a mercy petition with then president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

* Jan 12, 2007: The Supreme Court dismisses Afzal Guru's plea seeking review of his death sentence, saying "there is no merit" in it.

* Dec 30, 2010: Shaukat Hussain Guru released from Delhi's Tihar Jail.

*Dec 10, 2012: Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde says he would examine Afzal Guru's file after parliament's winter session concludes Dec 22.

(Alok Singh and Gaurav Sharma can be contacted at alok.s@ians.in and gaurav.s@ians.in)